The Impact of Operational Research on Agriculture

The Impact of Operational Research on Agriculture
E. D. Sargent
The Journal of the Operational Research Society
Vol. 31, No. 6 (Jun., 1980), pp. 477-483
DOI: 10.2307/2580821
Stable URL:
Page Count: 7
Journal of the Operational Research Society
Journal of the Operational Research Society


The paper shows that agriculture is one of the United Kingdom’s largest industries. It would therefore be expected that O.R. could have made a significant contribution to decision making. But achievements in practice have been disappointingly small. The industry comprises of a large number of small individual businesses which do not permit specialisation in management functions. Consequently, technical advice and much R and D is provided from public funds. O.R. applications for agriculture have mainly been developed by Universities, Colleges, State Advisory Services and QUANGOS. The paper discusses some techniques used in agriculture-linear programming, dynamic programming and simulation-and outlines some problems encountered with these. Other techniques have had limited uptake and application. Reasons for the disappointing impact of O.R. are discussed as a set of problems-those specific to farmers and their systems; those specific to computer use; problems in recruiting and training O.R. specialists and problems in communication.


Curated from The Impact of Operational Research on Agriculture


EURO Working Group – OR in Agriculture and Forest Management

As declared by the EURO Council, the main purpose of the EWG’s is to encourage communication and research between small groups of members specialising in particular topics. The WG is open to people with different backgrounds (like industry, university, etc) and who are interested on OR methods and its application in Agriculture and Forest Management in order to exchange ideas, experiences and research results. In this context, we invite everyone interested in this topic to join us.


The group started in 2003 with approximately 40 members from different countries. The number has been increased since then and now we are more than 275. People belongs mainly to EU contries but we have also a significant representation from America and Asia. The full list of members is shown at the webpage of the group (


The fifth meeting of the WG was held in Bonn within EURO XXIII, july 2009. Furthermore we have also organised the EURO Summer Institute 2009 held in Lleida (Spain).


The sixth meeting of the WG was integrated within EURO XXIV in Lisbon, july 2010. We fail to celebrate a meeting in 2011, 2012 and 2013 but we succeded to organise a stream in the past EURO Conferences with very interesting contributions.


* The eighth meeting will be held in Glasgow (UK), 12-15 July 2014 during the 27th EURO Conference. Different sessions are proposed within the stream we are organising, see



Handbook of Operations Research in Agriculture and the Agri Food Industry| Lluis M. Plà-Aragonés

This book is intended to collect in one volume high quality chapters on Methods and Applications in and considering both theoretical issues and application results. Methods applied to problems in agriculture and the agri-food industry include, but are not restricted to, the following themes:


Each chapter includes some standard and traditional methodology but also some recent research advances. All the applications presented in the chapters have been inspired and motivated by the demands from the agriculture and food production areas.


Lluís M. Plà-Aragonès is an Associate Professor in the Department of Mathematics at the University of Lleida (UdL) and a Senior Researcher in the Animal Production Area at the UdL-IRTA Center. His research interests include operational research methods applied in agriculture and forest management, with special reference to simulation, dynamic programming, Markov decision processes and production planning. He coordinates the EURO working group called Operational Research in Agriculture and Forest management. He is also a member of INFORMS and EURO.


The scope of this book is Operations Research methods in Agriculture and a thorough discussion of derived applications in the Agri-food industry. The book summarizes current research and practice in this area and illustrates the development of useful approaches to deal with actual problems arising in the agriculture sector and the agri-food industry.



Innovative Products and Services for Sustainable Societal Development – Journal of Cleaner Production – Elsevier

Sustainable development is a broad field that needs innovation. The challenges facing sustainable development are complex and no single innovation will be sufficient for societies to make the necessary transitions to equitable, post-fossil carbon societies. Therefore, societies require a wide diversity of innovations in order to make real progress. Therefore, multi-disciplinary thinking, research and practice are needed. The best way to ‘solve’ the complex challenges presented by climate changes and numerous other problems is to search for innovative solutions in a multi-disciplinary manner. This is essential in order to break away from the old stagnant ways of thinking to create sustainable and equitable solutions. The objectives of this Special Volume (SV) of the Journal of Cleaner Production (JCLP) are based on this common sense reasoning.


The first objective of the SV is to explore new innovations and their management in several thematic areas, which in different ways can contribute to sustainable societal development. The second objective of the SV is to explore holistic and innovative ways to combine advancements in different fields, and to develop overarching sustainable solutions.


In order to meet these objectives several thematic areas will need to be addressed. The themes cover products and services as well as their production, operations and supply chains. Parallel to these themes, Innovation management, Knowledge management and Information technology must be investigated. These themes cover tangible and intangible elements that are needed to develop, test and implement sustainable solutions.


The papers of the ICIM2014 – International Conference on Innovation and Management – are potential candidates for this SV. Between 15-20% of the ICIM2014 papers will be selected as candidates for this SV, and the authors of the selected papers will be invited to develop full peer review-ready documents according to the attached schedule. The authors of the selected papers will have about three months to improve and upgrade their conference papers to a high quality journal article, which is peer review ready, according to the guidelines of the Journal of Cleaner Production. This Call for papers (CfPs) is also open to our colleagues who did not attend the ICIM2014 conference.


Once your article has been accepted you will receive an email from Author Services. This email contains a link to check the status of your article. Track your accepted paper



An engineering approach for sustainable systems

This paper summed up much of the thinking and research that I had been involved with for around a decade as a research scientist at the former Silsoe Research Institute at Bedfordshire. (Wrest Park is a fabulous Stately home and was a gorgeous setting for UKs public sector agricultural engineering institute)

In many ways I remain an heir to that legacy with the remaining team members at Cranfield University. My work lies under Systems Modelling for Decisions -mostly under 1 and 2, but dipping into the rest

Key headings from the paper

Systems Modelling for Decisions:

  1. Systems modelling for environmental
  2. Whole farm decisions and land use planning -the implications of farmers’ management decisions for environmental impacts
  3. Decision support for complex uncertain systems – stochastic dynamic programming and weed control strategies
  4. Linking process and systems models to support on-farm decision making – an example for fungicide does optimization

Control Engineering approaches to biological systems:

  1. Incorporating models in the control loop
  2. Control of multiple outputs -target growth but with limited emissions
  3. Advanced sensing techniques – a route to more complex control opportunities
    1. machine vision
    2. biological sensors
  4. Real-time machine control

Day, W., Audsley, E., & Frost, A. R. (2008). An engineering approach to modelling, decision support and control for sustainable systems. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London B: Biological Sciences, 363(1491), 527–541. Cite

Research Fellowship Training -Career Planning 31/7/2015

31st July 2015 Life as a at Cranfield and

Nice to see 20-30 of us attending. Despite being an established Research Fellow it was useful refresher training for me.

It all boils down to a triad of academic Papers (out), research student PhDs (out) and Pounds (in). The ages old maxim publish or perish.

To some extent your job is what you want it to be if you begin to bring in funding, excel at what you like and are good at and do the least you can get away with for the rest.

One of the interesting messages is the for every four hours meeting the Research Customers needs two and a half could be spent advancing ones career with papers and items of esteem, one and a half seeking new research grants, 1 hour teaching and supervising students, and 1 hour of citizenry and giving back to the quality of life of your work community. Most of us spend most of our time chasing our tails and leave the advancing ones career stuff too much to chance.

It was interesting that hands-on teaching peaks mid career with lecturers and senior lecturer. Readers and Professors are more broadly focused on the intellectual stewardship of their fields and its strategic resources such as the funding and intellectual outcomes

Life can be a roller coaster of ups and down – you need to be able to handle failure -grant rejections -paper rejections, etc. You need to stay grounded in reality and not get over hyped or devastated. Respond to challenges and setbacks with solutions and don’t allow yourself to become a toxic moaner that everyone resits helping.

There are multiple paths to success, but don’t expect the rules and goal post to be written or set in stone. Luck and intelligent understanding matter as well. Know your skills and leverage your strengths and mitigate your weaknesses.

Esteem and publications are like social media they are an ecosystem that grows out and grow on itself and starts to show exponential influence with

Most research fellows struggle because they:
lack a plan to become a Professor
Most promotion cases are flawed because the candidate:
Lacks a clear and distinct intellectual vision

The Academic Reputational Development Plan has moved here to the PLAN

health check and plan
health check and plan

Citation Alert

Smith, L. G., Williams, A. G., & Pearce, Bruce. D. (2015). The energy efficiency of organic agriculture: A review. Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems, 30(03), 280–301.

Laurence cites the work that I was involved in at Silsoe Research Institute (SRI) and the early days of Cranfield University. Looking at the environmental burdens of producing 10 food commodities in England and Wales. The paper cited looks at the main arable crops wheat, oilseed-rape, and potatoes . Read more about his project here Environmental Burdens of Agricultural and Horticultural Commodity Production – LCA (IS0205)
Smith, L. G., Williams, A. G., & Pearce, Bruce. D. (2015). The energy efficiency of organic agriculture: A review. Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems, 30(03), 280–301.

Williams, A. G., Audsley, E., & Sandars, D. L. (2010). Environmental burdens of producing bread wheat, oilseed rape and potatoes in England and Wales using simulation and system modelling. International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment, 15(8), 855–868. Scopus.

PhD – Part-time by staff candidacy

The return to work review after the year long leave of academic progress recommended to withdraw, There were two years and two months left on the clock.

Informally the advice is to concentrate on the papers anyway and once a portfolio of publications is in hand in a few years time then consider the case of a Phd/MPhil by portfolio of publications.

Citation Alert

Al-Ansari, T., Korre, A., Nie, Z., & Shah, N. (n.d.). Development of a life cycle assessment tool for the assessment of food production systems within the energy, water and food nexus. Sustainable Production and Consumption.

This paper refers to work that I published at Silsoe Research Institute looking at the environmental benefits of livestock manure management technologies especially the impact of uncertainty in their claims of performance. They are looking at livestock production Qatar and the impact Solar Panels can have on improving sustainability
Al-Ansari, T., Korre, A., Nie, Z., & Shah, N. (n.d.). Development of a life cycle assessment tool for the assessment of food production systems within the energy, water and food nexus. Sustainable Production and Consumption.

Sandars, D. L., Audsley, E., Cañete, C., Cumby, T. R., Scotford, I. M., & Williams, A. G. (2003). Environmental benefits of livestock manure management practices and technology by life cycle assessment. Biosystems Engineering, 84(3), 267–281. Scopus.

Citation Alert

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Li, S., Colson, V., Lejeune, P., Speybroeck, N., & Vanwambeke, S. O. (2015). Agent-based modelling of the spatial pattern of leisure visitation in forests: A case study in Wallonia, south Belgium. Environmental Modelling & Software, 71, 111–125.

This paper cites work that I did for the Climsave project on using the Silsoe Whole Farm Model linear programme to predict future landuse under climate change in the EU 27 see
for the background to the project

Li, S. et al. (2015) ‘Agent-based modelling of the spatial pattern of leisure visitation in forests: A case study in Wallonia, south Belgium’, Environmental Modelling & Software, 71, pp. 111–125. Available at: Cite
Audsley, E., Trnka, M., Sabaté, S., Maspons, J., Sanchez, A., Sandars, D., Balek, J., & Pearn, K. (2014). Interactively modelling land profitability to estimate European agricultural and forest land use under future scenarios of climate, socio-economics and adaptation. Climatic Change, 128(3–4), 215–227. Scopus.

My professional interests are represented here #Agriculture #OperationalResearch ( #OR ) #Environment